Mourn­ers re­call Jac­que­lyn Smith’s last kind act

Baltimore Sun - - MARYLAND -

n el­derly man in a gray suit stepped to the mi­cro­phone and in­tro­duced him­self as Chap­lain Robert Grayson. He said he ran an ur­ban min­istry in Bal­ti­more.

On Fri­day night, he brought his mes­sage to Churchville, in Har­ford County, and Help­ing Hands Min­istries, the Apos­tolic church where Jac­que­lyn Smith had wor­shiped and where friends re­mem­bered her wide smile, kind spirit and her last act — help­ing a pan­han­dler on a rainy night in East Bal­ti­more.

Sec­onds af­ter that act of kind­ness, Smith was fa­tally stabbed. Her death made head­lines across the coun­try and marked a pro­foundly dreary mo­ment in Bal­ti­more’s strug­gles with a surge of vi­o­lence, nearly four years run­ning long.

Grayson spoke di­rectly to Smith’s hus­band, Keith Smith, who was seated in the front row of the church, washed in bright lights. “Try not to be bit­ter,” Grayson im­plored. “Do not let the spirit of anger and hate grip this fam­ily. … I walk those streets in Bal­ti­more. I told my wife, what hap­pened is go­ing to change Bal­ti­more.”

The mourn­ers ap­plauded the se­nior preacher’s mes­sage — that Smith’s death had greater mean­ing, or that some­how Smith’s death will jar the city and its lead­ers into bolder ac­tion to slow the pace of vi­o­lence. Oth­ers ex­pressed hope — the be­lief, re­ally — that Smith’s death car­ried a pow­er­ful Chris­tian mes­sage about char­ity and faith, about never sur­ren­der­ing to fear or ha­tred.

“She tried to help some­body,” said Lida Hen­son, one of the church min­is­ters. “God is say­ing, ‘Well done, my good and faith­ful ser­vant.’ ”

A“She was do­ing a kind deed,” said Derick Maull, a co-worker of Smith’s from Aberdeen Prov­ing Ground. “That is her legacy, one of kind­ness and care and con­cern. Peo­ple die. Lega­cies do not die.”

“Jacqui’s tragic death has shaken this com­mu­nity,” said Bishop Roger L. Tat­uem, se­nior pas­tor of Help­ing Hands. “Not just this com­mu­nity, but the en­tire world. … Peo­ple were touched who didn’t even know Jacqui. We have re­ceived phone calls af­ter phone calls, peo­ple want­ing to know: ‘What can we do? How can we help?’

“We are be­liev­ers. We don’t stop giv­ing. Don’t al­low the spirit of fear to over­take you,” he said.

But Tat­uem, ad­dress­ing the is­sue of pan­han­dling, said giv­ing had to be done with wis­dom and cau­tion, and he ad­vised those gath­ered for the ser­vice to make their do­na­tions through es­tab­lished char­i­ties.

The evening ser­vice was filled with spirit, song and warm and hu­mor­ous re­flec­tions on Smith’s life, and pas­sion­ate ex­pres­sions of Chris­tian faith. Speaker af­ter speaker praised God, and sev­eral ex­pressed be­lief that some­thing good would come of Smith’s tragic death.

“Jacqui was lend­ing a help­ing hand,” Tat­uem said. “When she left that body, she en­tered di­rectly into the pres­ence of the Lord.”

“The last thing sis­ter Jacqui was do­ing was help­ing some­one in need,” Dina Hughes said. “We miss her, our hearts are heavy. But she did what God wanted her to do.”

Sev­eral speak­ers — co-work­ers and friends — spoke of Smith’s warmth and bright per­son­al­ity. They em­braced and hugged Keith Smith who, at the end of the ser­vice, rose to thank ev­ery­one for their sup­port, and to speak of his wife.

They met on Oct. 5, 2013, at a birth­day party of a mu­tual friend. He was ner­vous about ask­ing her to dance. But it was love at first sight. “I like to say wedanced our way to the al­tar,” Smith said. He pro­posed that Christ­mas Eve.

“Me and my wife, we be­came one,” he said. “We be­came one in ev­ery­thing. That’s what hap­pens when you find your soul­mate. That was my ev­ery­thing. One day I’ll find peace within my­self. Right now, I’m just heal­ing. … Still, I’m go­ing to honor my wife’s mem­ory, and make sure my wife did not die in vain.”

KARL MER­TON FER­RON/BAL­TI­MORE SUN

Mourn­ers at­tend Help­ing Hands Min­istries in Churchville for Fri­day night’s me­mo­rial ser­vice to re­mem­ber Jac­que­lyn Smith (pic­tured), the Har­ford County woman who was killed last week dur­ing an at­tack af­ter she gave money to a pan­han­dler in Bal­ti­more.

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